Hank Crawford’s new CD grabs you from the start, and doubles as the perfect disc for that romantic Friday-night dinner at home. "Grab the World" the first of several danceable numbers on this release gets you revved up for your date’s arrival. Mark Belgrave’s fluid flugelhorn sound mixes well with Danny Mixon’s playful piano solo. And you’ll be swinging around the room to Kenny Washington’s samba beat.
"Way Back Home" puts Crawford and his listeners in a soulful, candlelit mood. His tone is not especially smooth, sometimes sounding as buzzy as a grass-blade kazoo. I actually like this, not being a fan of the overly-schmaltzy sound so favored by today’s sax players. On "Trust in Me," Crawford’s over-the-top, slow, wavering wah-wah blues are accompanied by a gloriously full organ sound. (Now would be a good time to lean over for a kiss.)
Equally fearless is the quacking, almost out-of-tune sax sound of Crawford’s original "Back in the Day," a tune which unfortunately isn’t on a par with the rest of the album. The soloists run out of steam early, resorting to repeated arpeggios. Comping by the other players is equally uninteresting. The band recovers, however, with a go-go "Love for Sale." Shimmying guitar runs and a stuttering organ sound liven up this somewhat simplistic rendering. Unfortunately, it ends weakly with a fade-out.
The ultra-lush "Come Sunday" perfectly accompanies a long, lingering dessert course. Crawford sustains rich whole notes over changing organ chords. His wide vibrato contrasts nicely with one segment featuring a tinkly old-time player-piano, which may turn your serious conversation to lighter topics.
After an unremarkable "Sonnymood for Two", you’ll perk up at "Good Bait," a fun standard with a simple melody and swinging eighth notes. Crawford and cohorts obviously enjoy playing together. Their blues style perfectly blends relaxed attitude and strong rhythmic drive. With nearly every track offering something soulful and unique, the disc holds up well to repeat listening. And the tunes give each band member a chance to show off impressive talent.
Not the slow and sad goodbye you might expect, "Star Eyes" suggests instead a what-shall-we-do-tomorrow send-off that keeps the spring in your step even as the album ends. Featured with fast improv here, Crawford keeps things light. The piano is equally airy, with its ice-cube-clinking high-note nightcaps to wrap up an elegant evening.